Manufacturer's move to Fairfield comes at key business park: Why officials say it's important

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Jul. 28—Fairfield Commerce Park is seen as a key development to fill the job void left when Liberty Mutual vacated its Seward Road facility, and it got a shot in the arm this week.

About 800 jobs left Fairfield with Liberty Mutual's departure, and Ambrose Property Group purchased the insurance company's campus and the 137-acre adjacent site for more than $17 million in two separate transactions.

Now, Ambrose Property has sold two of five planned new buildings in a park designed for e-commerce and light industrial. Fairfield officials are "impressed by the steady momentum" at the business park, said Nathaniel Kaelin, Fairfield's Economic Development manager.

"I'm confident that the logistical advantages, quality buildings, and the performance-based incentives will continue to attract companies to our area, and we look forward to working with Ambrose and Black Creek Group as the park continues to develop," he said.

Black Creek Group was acquired by a subsidiary of Ares Management Corporation on July 1.

Fairfield Commerce Park is on one of the city's last major greenfield sites, and Kaelin said, "It was critical to maximize development of the property."

"The park represents a more than $100 million investment creating a high-quality, Class A industrial park that is well-positioned for long-term vitality," he said.

Fairfield Commerce Park is positioned near the convergence of Interstates 275 and 75 at the heart of Cincinnati's largest industrial area. The five new construction buildings will range in size from 90,000 square feet to more than 615,000 square feet.

The business park also includes a 270,000-square-foot building formerly occupied by Liberty Mutual at 9450 Seward Road and is now being shopped for lease for either a commercial office or industrial use.

Ambrose Property provided an assurance to the city its multi-building development will attract between 600 to 1,000 new jobs to Fairfield. At its height, Liberty Mutual had 1,100 jobs in the city. When it left the city several months ago, it was a top-10 Fairfield employer with around 800 employees.

Fairfield leaders had faith in this project from the beginning as demonstrated by the financial incentives it gave to Ambrose Property to help the project along.

In June 2020, City Council approved a tax incentive agreement for the project. Part of the deal is the city's standards Community Reinvestment Agreement, a 10-year, 75% property tax abatement on renovations and new construction, with payments to the Fairfield City Schools and Butler Tech.

The other part of the deal is a unique performance-based incentive.

Ambrose Property Group has committed to specific income tax revenue targets to ensure enough jobs will have been created at the business park. If tenants do not achieve those targets, Ambrose Property Group will make up the difference in the designated tax year, or the company forgoes the abatement for that year.

New construction and building renovations are eligible for the abatement inventive until 2028.

This past November, the city agreed to reimburse Ambrose Property Group up to $500,000 for public infrastructure improvements. Payments for reimbursement will be generated from revenues from a tax increment financing district approved last year.

Last month, Ambrose sold Building I and II at Fairfield Commerce Park to Black Creek Group, a real estate investment management company based in Denver, Colorado. The two-building deal is valued at $53.825 million, according to the Butler County Auditor's Office.

Hilco Vision announced Monday it will lease the 246,480-square-foot Building I from Black Creek Group.

The eyewear manufacturer and eyecare solutions firm announced it would have up to 150 employees within its first year of operations, and 200 employees by 2024. Hilco Vision plans to ramp up operations by the fall, according to Fairfield.

Black Creek Group announced it will lease about a third of the 300,560-square-foot Building II, but hasn't yet announced a tenant.

Marty Edmondson, managing director at Ares Real Estate Group, said the company also purchased the land to develop Building III, a 615,000-square-foot speculative project. The transaction has not yet been recorded with the auditor's office. The building is set to be completed by February 2022.

"The Greater Cincinnati region is a strategic location for us in the Midwest due to its close proximity to a deep pool of skilled labor and thousands of businesses," said Edmondson. "The Fairfield Commerce Park is a great example of the quality industrial real estate that we are looking to own in this area."

Part of the Greater Cincinnati's skilled labor pool includes education courses like Miami University's Work+ Program, the University of Cincinnati's Early IT Program, and Butler Tech's Fifth Day Experience.

Ambrose Property Group will continue to act as development manager on behalf of the developer, Black Creek Group.

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